2017 women’s conference focuses on healing

By Carla L. Smith

It’s no secret this is a wounded world, but a secret many keep is that we are personally wounded too. Healing those wounds will be the focus of the second annual Diocese of Austin Catholic Women’s Conference set for Sept. 23 in Buda. 
The theme of the conference, “Healing the Body of Christ,” will build upon Pope Francis’ observation that the church is similar to a field hospital after battle in that “It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol. You have to heal his wounds, then we can talk about everything else. But first, heal the wounds.”
The day-long event will offer women a chance to experience a time of restoration, hear powerful stories of hope and reconciliation, and learn how women today are called and gifted to be unique instruments in the church.
Sharon Perkins, diocesan director of the Office of Evangelization, Catechesis and Family Life, said the conference will explore healing from two perspectives.
“Someone once said that wounded people wound other people,” Perkins said. “We are all members of the Body of Christ, so when one of us is hurting, the whole Body hurts. Our conference will reflect upon both individual healing and healing as a community.”
Building on last year’s popular and sold out conference, this year’s event will feature two dynamic speakers, Sister Miriam James Heidland of the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity and Kathleen Beckman, president and co-founder of the Foundation of Prayer for Priests. 
The author of “Loved As I Am: An Invitation to Conversion, Healing and Freedom Through Christ,” Sister Miriam went from college athlete full of ambition and goals for a career in sports news to party girl to bride of Christ. Today she speaks about personal healing and the freedom it brings. She openly shares her own struggles of learning she was adopted, battling alcoholism, and healing from childhood sexual abuse and uses them as signs of hope and the power and glory of healing.
Beckman hosts a weekly radio program, is often featured on EWTN programs, and came to learn the power of healing and forgiveness following the murder of a family member. She also speaks on what she calls “the spiritual motherhood” of priests and her new book, “When Women Pray: Eleven Catholic Women on the Power of Prayer,” proclaims the joy of prayer and wealth of grace entrusted to praying women while inspiring healing and holiness.
“Women bring so many unique and beautiful gifts to the life and well-being of the church, Perkins said, “but we often underestimate how our personal wounds can hurt the church as a whole. We must face our wounds with courage and bring them to Jesus for healing, in order to minister to others in the best possible way.”
Perkins added that the conference is a way for Catholic women to encourage other Catholic women. The idea for an Austin Diocese forum came after she attended a 2015 women’s conference in Minnesota and was impressed by the power of getting not only women, but also women of faith, together. 
Extra time will be allotted this year for socializing, going to confession, and visiting displays from Catholic product vendors and also representatives from various ministries that serve the needs of women. In addition, the adoration chapel will be open, Bishop Daniel Garcia will celebrate Mass, short personal testimonials on healing will be part of lunch, and prayers teams will be on site.
Perkins has learned from experience that we all hurt but sometimes we fail to take our sufferings to God. Conference attendees will hear messages of hope and healing, learn to apply them personally, and then share them with others, much like Jesus did in his discipleship.
“Jesus could have taken the ‘big group’ approach to his ministry, but he felt it was important to gather a small group of 12 and go from there,” Perkins said. “The same can be true about healing. People we know are in need of healing and we can all personally offer them God’s love, mercy, healing and hope.”
Patron saints of this year’s conference are Catherine of Siena, who was instrumental in bringing reconciliation during time of great conflict in the church, and Padre Pio, on whose feast day the event falls. Catherine of Siena is one of a few female doctors of the church and both saints bore the stigmata, which Perkins feels further illustrates Christ’s healing power.
“While wounded people invariably hurt other people — it’s also true that healed people heal other people, because they have exchanged their own wounds for Christ’s,” she said.
Tickets for the conference are $40 in advance and $50 at the door. “Healing the Body of Christ” will be held Sept. 23 from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Santa Cruz Parish in Buda. For more information, go to 
www.austindiocese.org/womens-conference or call (512) 949-2492.